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Phone: 503-823-3700

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55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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Off-Duty Portland Firefighter's Quick Thinking Aids Victim, Protects Motorists in I-205 Pin-In Auto Accident

Posted @ 12:37 pm

At approximately 9:24 am, off-duty Portland Firefighter/Paramedic Chris Bernard, a 15-year veteran of Portland Fire & Rescue, was driving in the southbound lanes of Interstate 205 near the Foster Road exit when - without braking - a small SUV two cars ahead of him suddenly veered to the left, crossed the center median, and struck a semi-truck in the northbound lanes. A third vehicle was also involved in the collision and rolled over onto its top.

Bernard, also a 24-year veteran of the 304th Rescue Squadron based out of Portland, immediately pulled over to assist the driver who was severely pinned between the driver's seat and the dashboard. Bernard was aided by an off-duty nurse who stopped to render needed first aid to the driver of the SUV.

"Because the driver was so severely pinned in the vehicle, there was little we could do for him until Portland Fire arrived at the scene," said Bernard. "Then I noticed that the SUV had smoke coming from the engine and was concerned that it might catch fire."

Thinking quickly, Bernard flagged down a local cement truck driver. The cement truck carried a water supply and a hose. Bernard used the water from the cement truck to extinguish any potential fire that might break out in the SUV's engine compartment.

Portland Fire, assisted by Clackamas County Fire, arrived on scene at 9:28 am and used numerous extrication tools to spread the vehicle apart and free the individual including hydraulic rams, hydraulic cutters to cut off the roof, and hydraulic Jaws of Life.

"It took firefighters 23 minutes to free the individual in this complicated and technically challenging extrication," said Portland Fire Public Information Officer Paul Corah.

The patient had life-threatening injuries and was transported to a local trauma hospital. Portland Police are investigating to determine the cause of the accident. The driver of the semi-truck was not injured. The driver of the third car that flipped onto its top was able to self-extricate and was not injured. Traffic in both north and southbound lanes of I-205 was backed up for miles due to the accident.